History of modern period domes

Domes built in the 19th and 20th centuries benefited from more efficient techniques for producing iron and steel as well as advances in structural analysis.

Metal-framed domes of the 19th century often imitated earlier masonry dome designs in a variety of styles, especially in church architecture, but were also used to create glass domes over shopping arcades and hothouses, domes over locomotive sheds and exhibition halls, and domes larger than any others in the world. The variety of domed buildings, such as parliaments and capitol buildings, gasometers, observatories, libraries, and churches, were enabled by the use of reinforced concrete ribs, lightweight papier-mâché, and triangulated framing.

In the 20th century, planetarium domes spurred the invention by Walther Bauersfeld of both thin shells of reinforced concrete and geodesic domes. The use of steel, computers, and finite element analysis enabled yet larger spans. Tension membrane structure became popular for domed sports stadiums, which also innovated with rigid retractable domed roofs.

Nineteenth century

New production techniques allowed for cast iron and wrought iron to be produced both in larger quantities and at relatively low prices during the Industrial Revolution. Iron was used in place of wood where fire resistance was a priority. In Russia, which had large supplies of iron, some of the earliest examples of the material’s architectural use can be found. Andrey Voronikhin built a large wrought iron dome over Kazan Cathedral in Saint Petersburg. Built between 1806 and 1811, the 17.7 meter wide outer dome of the cathedral was one of the earliest iron domes.

Although iron production in France lagged behind Britain, the government was eager to foster the development of its domestic iron industry. In 1808, the government of Napoleon approved a plan to replace the burnt down wooden dome of the Halle au Blé granary in Paris with a dome of iron and glass, the “earliest example of metal with glass in a dome”. The dome was 37 meters in diameter and used 51 cast iron ribs to converge on a wrought iron compression ring 11 meters wide containing a glass and wrought iron skylight. The outer surface of the dome was covered with copper, with additional windows cut near the dome’s base to admit more light during an 1838 modification. Cast-iron domes were particularly popular in France.

An early example from Britain is the fanciful iron-framed dome over the central building of the Royal Pavilion in Brighton, begun in 1815 by John Nash, the personal architect of King George IV.

In 1828, the eastern crossing tower of Mainz Cathedral was rebuilt by Georg Moller with a wrought iron dome. The dome was made of flat iron sections and reinforced with ties that passed through the interior of the dome. Such dome reinforcement was one of the two established techniques, the other being the use of a combination of horizontal rings and vertical ribs. It was later removed in favor of the current structure.

Saint Isaac’s Cathedral, in Saint Petersburg, was built by 1842 with one of the largest domes in Europe. A cast iron dome nearly 26 meters wide, it had a technically advanced triple-shell design with iron trusses reminiscent of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. Also reminiscent of St. Paul’s dome and that of the Panthéon in Paris, both of which the original designer had visited, the dome of St. Nicholas’ Church in Potsdam was added to the building from 1843-49. A dome was included as a possibility in the original late Neoclassical design of 1830, but as a wooden construction. Iron was used instead by the later architects.

Battle of the Styles
The Neoclassical style popular at this time was challenged in the middle of the nineteenth century by a Gothic Revival in architecture, in what has been termed the “Battle of the Styles”. This lasted from about 1840 to the beginning of the twentieth century, with various styles within Classicism, such as Renaissance, Baroque, and Rococo revivals, also vying for popularity. The last three decades of this period included unusual combinations of these styles.

The British Museum Library constructed a new reading room in the courtyard of its museum building between 1854 and 1857. The round room, about 42.6 meters in diameter and inspired by the Pantheon, was surmounted by a dome with a ring of windows at the base and an oculus at the top. Hidden iron framing supported a suspended ceiling made of papier-mâché. A cast iron dome was built between 1860 and 1867 over the reading room of the Bibliothèque nationale in Paris. Inspired by the prestigious British Museum reading room, the first iron dome in Canada was built in the early 1870s over the reading room of the Library of Parliament building in Ottawa. Unlike the British Museum room, the library, which opened in 1876, uses the Gothic style. The dome of the Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress, also inspired by the reading room dome at the British Museum, was built between 1889 and 1897 in a classical style. It is 100 feet wide and rises 195 feet above the floor on eight piers. The dome has a relatively low external profile to avoid overshadowing the nearby United States Capitol dome.

The current dome over the United States Capitol building, although painted white and crowning a masonry building, is also made of cast iron. The dome was built between 1855 and 1866, replacing a lower wooden dome with copper roofing from 1824. It has a 30-meter diameter. It was completed just two years after the Old St. Louis County Courthouse, which has the first cast iron dome built in the United States. The initial design of the capitol dome was influenced by a number of European church domes, particularly St. Paul’s in London, St. Peter’s in Rome, the Panthéon in Paris, Les Invalides in Paris, and St. Isaac’s Cathedral in St. Petersburg. The architect, Thomas U. Walter, designed a double dome interior based on that of the Panthéon in Paris. Dome construction for state capitol buildings and county courthouses in the United States flourished in the period between the American Civil War and World War I. Many American state capitol building domes were built in the late 19th or early 20th century in the American Renaissance style and cover rotundas open to the public as commemorative spaces. Examples include the Indiana State House, Texas State Capitol, and the Wisconsin State Capitol.

The dome over the Basilica of San Gaudenzio (begun in 1577) in Novara, Italy, was built between 1844 and 1880. Revisions by the architect during construction transformed what was initially going to be a drum, hemispherical dome, and lantern 42.22 meters tall into a structure with two superimposed drums, an ogival dome, and a thirty meter tall spire reaching 117.5 meters. The architect, Alessandro Antonelli, who also built the Mole Antonelliana in Turin, Italy, combined Neoclassical forms with the vertical emphasis of the Gothic style.

The Reichstag Palace, built between 1883 and 1893 to house the Parliament of the new German Empire, included a dome made of iron and glass as part of its unusual mixture of Renaissance and Baroque components. Controversially, the 74 meter tall dome stood seven meters taller than the dome of the Imperial Palace in the city, drawing criticism from Kaiser Wilhelm II.

The Hungarian Parliament Building was built in the Gothic style, although most of the 1882 design competition entries used Neo-Renaissance, and it includes a domed central hall. The large, ribbed, egg-shaped dome topped with a spire was influenced by the dome of the Maria vom Siege church in Vienna. It has a sixteen sided outer shell with an iron skeleton that rises 96 meters high, and an inner shell star vault supported on sixteen stone pillars. The Dome Hall is used to display the coronation crown of Hungary and statuary of monarchs and statesmen. The dome was structurally complete by the end of 1895.

Other developments
The historicism of the 19th century led to many domes being re-translations of the great domes of the past, rather than further stylistic developments, especially in sacred architecture. Excluding domes that simply imitated multi-shell masonry, the century’s chief development of the simple domed form may be metal framed domes such as the elliptical dome of Royal Albert Hall in London (57 to 67 meters in diameter) and the circular dome of Halle au Blé in Paris.

The practice of building rotating domes for housing large telescopes was begun in the 19th century, with early examples using papier-mâché to minimize weight.

Unique glass domes springing straight from ground level were used for hothouses and winter gardens, such as the Palm house at Kew (1844–48) and the Laeken winter garden near Brussels (1875–1876). Elaborate covered shopping arcades, such as the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan and the Galleria Umberto I in Naples, included large glazed domes at their cross intersections.

The largest dome in the world was built in 1881–1882 over the circular courtyard of the Devonshire Royal Hospital in England with a diameter of 156 feet. The large domes of the 19th century also included exhibition buildings and functional structures such as gasometers and locomotive sheds. The “first fully triangulated framed dome” was built in Berlin in 1863 by Johann Wilhelm Schwedler in a gasometer for the Imperial Continental Gas Association and, by the start of the 20th century, similarly triangulated frame domes had become fairly common. Vladimir Shukhov was also an early pioneer of what would later be called gridshell structures and in 1897 he employed them in domed exhibit pavilions at the All-Russia Industrial and Art Exhibition.

Although domes made entirely from reinforced concrete were not built before 1900, the church of Saint-Jean-de-Montmartre was designed by Anatole de Baudot with a small brick shell dome with reinforced concrete ribs.

According to Irene Giustina, dome construction was one of the most challenging architectural problems until at least the end of the nineteenth century, due to a lack of knowledge about statics.

Twentieth century
Guastavino tile
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Guastavino family, a father and son team who worked on the eastern seaboard of the United States, further developed the masonry dome. They perfected a traditional Spanish and Italian technique for light, center-less vaulting using layers of tiles in fast-setting cement set flat against the surface of the curve, rather than perpendicular to it. The father, Rafael Guastavino, innovated with the use of Portland cement as the mortar, rather than the traditional lime and gypsum mortars, which allowed mild steel bar to be used to counteract tension forces. His use of the recent development of graphic statics enabled him to design and build inexpensive funicular domes with minimal thickness and no scaffolding. The vaults were typically 3 inches thick and workers, standing on the completed portions, used simple templates, wires, and strings to align their work.

The family built vaults in hundreds of buildings, including the domes of the Basilica of St. Lawrence in Asheville, North Carolina, and St. Francis de Sales Roman Catholic Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The dome over the crossing of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City was built by the son in 1909. A part-spherical dome, it measures 30 meters in diameter from the top of its merging pendentives, where steel rods embedded in concrete act as a restraining ring. With an average thickness 1/250th of its span, and steel rods also embedded within the pendentives, the dome “looked forward to modern shell construction in reinforced concrete.”

Steel and concrete
Domes built with steel and concrete were able to achieve very large spans. The West Baden Springs Hotel in Indiana was built in 1903 with the largest span dome in the world at 200 feet. Its metal and glass skin was supported by steel trusses resting on metal rollers to allow for expansion and contraction from temperature changes. It was surpassed in span by the Centennial Hall of Max Berg. The 1911 dome of the Melbourne Public Library reading room, presumably inspired by the British Museum, had a diameter of 31.5 meters and was briefly the widest reinforced concrete dome in the world until the completion of the Centennial Hall. The Centennial Hall was built with reinforced concrete in Breslau, Germany (today Poland), from 1911–13 to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the uprising against Napoleon. With a 213 foot wide central dome surrounded by stepped rings of vertical windows, it was the largest building of its kind in the world. Other examples of ribbed domes made entirely of reinforced concrete include the Methodist Hall in Westminster, London, the Augsburg Synagogue, and the Orpheum Theater in Bochum. The 1928 Leipzig Market Hall by Deschinger and Ritter featured two 82 meter wide domes.

The thin domical shell was further developed with the construction of two domes in Jena, Germany in the early 1920s. To build a rigid planetarium dome, Walther Bauersfeld constructed a triangulated frame of light steel bars and mesh with a domed formwork suspended below it. By spraying a thin layer of concrete onto both the formwork and the frame, he created a 16 meter wide dome that was just 30 millimeters thick. The second dome was still thinner at 40 meters wide and 60 millimeters thick. These are generally taken to be the first modern architectural thin shells. These are also considered the first geodesic domes. Beginning with one for the Deutsches Museum in Munich, 15 domed projection planetariums using concrete shells up to 30 meters wide had been built in Europe by 1930, and that year the Adler Planetarium in Chicago became the first planetarium to open in the Western Hemisphere.

Spanish engineer-architect Eduardo Torroja, with Manuel Sanchez, designed the Market Hall in Algeciras, Spain, with a thin shell concrete dome. Built from 1933–34, the shallow dome is 48 meters wide, 9 centimeters thick, and supported at points around its perimeter. Popularized by a 1955 article on the work of Félix Candela in Mexico, architectural shells had their heyday in the 1950s and 1960s, peaking in popularity shortly before the widespread adoption of computers and the finite element method of structural analysis. Notable examples of domes include the Kresge Auditorium at MIT, which has a spherical shell 49 meters wide and 89 millimeters thick, and the Palazzetto dello Sport, with a 59 meter wide dome designed by Pier Luigi Nervi. Early examples used a relatively thick bordering girder to stabilize exposed edges. Alternative stabilization techniques include adding a bend at these edges to stiffen them or increasing the thickness of the shell itself at the edges and near the supports.

Geodesic domes
Structurally, geodesic domes are also considered shells when the loads are borne by the surface polygons, as in the Kaiser Dome, but are considered space grid structures when the loads are borne by point-to-point members. Although the first examples were built 25 years earlier by Walther Bauersfeld, the term “geodesic domes” was coined by Buckminster Fuller, who received a patent for them in 1954. Geodesic domes have been used for radar enclosures, greenhouses, housing, and weather stations.

Early examples in the United States include a 53-foot-wide dome for the Ford Rotunda in 1953 and a 384-foot-diameter dome for the Baton Rouge facility of the Union Tank Car Company in 1958, the largest clear-span structure in the world at that time. The U.S. Pavilion at Expo 67 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, was enclosed by a 76.5-meter-wide and 60-meter-tall dome made of steel pipes and acrylic panels. It is used today as a water monitoring center. Other examples include the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, which was used from 1975 to 2003, and the Eden Project in the UK, built in 2000.

Tension and membranes
Tensegrity domes, patented by Buckminster Fuller in 1962 from a concept by Kenneth Snelson, are membrane structures consisting of radial trusses made from steel cables under tension with vertical steel pipes spreading the cables into the truss form. They have been made circular, elliptical, and other shapes to cover stadiums from Korea to Florida. While the first permanent air supported membrane domes were the radar domes designed and built by Walter Bird after World War II, the temporary membrane structure designed by David Geiger to cover the United States pavilion at Expo ’70 was a landmark construction. Geiger’s solution to a 90% reduction in the budget for the pavilion project was a “low profile cable-restrained, air-supported roof employing a superelliptical perimeter compression ring”. Its very low cost led to the development of permanent versions using teflon-coated fiberglass and within 15 years the majority of the domed stadiums around the world used this system, including the Silverdome in Pontiac, Michigan. The restraining cables of such domes are laid diagonally to avoid the sagging perimeter found to occur with a standard grid.

Tension membrane design has depended upon computers, and the increasing availability of powerful computers resulted in many developments being made in the last three decades of the 20th century. Weather-related deflations of some air-supported roofs led David Geiger to develop a modified type, the more rigid “Cabledome”, that incorporated Fuller’s ideas of tensegrity and aspension rather than being air-supported. The pleated effect seen in some of these domes is the result of lower radial cables stretching between those forming trusses in order to keep the membrane in tension. The lightweight membrane system used consists of four layers: waterproof fiberglass on the outside, insulation, a vapor barrier, then an acoustic insulation layer. This is semitransparent enough to fulfill most daytime lighting needs beneath the dome. The first large span examples were two Seoul, South Korea, sports arenas built in 1986 for the Olympics, one 93 meters wide and the other 120 meters wide. The Georgia Dome, built in 1992 on an oval plan, uses instead a triangulated pattern in a system patented as the “Tenstar Dome”. The Millennium Dome was completed as the largest cable dome in the world with a diameter of 320 meters and uses a different system of membrane support, with cables extending down from the 12 masts that penetrate the membrane. The first cable dome to use rigid steel frame panels as roofing instead of a translucent membrane was begun for an athletic center in North Carolina in 1994.

Retractable domes and stadiums
The higher expense of rigid large span domes made them relatively rare, although rigidly moving panels is the most popular system for sports stadiums with retractable roofing. With a span of 126 meters, Pittsburgh’s Civic Arena featured the largest retractable dome in the world when completed for the city’s Civic Light Opera in 1961. Six of its eight sections could rotate behind the other two within three minutes, and in 1967 it became the home of the Pittsburgh Penguins hockey team.

The first domed baseball stadium, the Astrodome in Houston, Texas, was completed in 1965 with a rigid 641 foot wide steel dome filled with 4,596 skylights. Other early examples of rigid stadium domes include the steel frame Superdome of New Orleans and the cement Kingdome of Seattle. Stockholm’s 1989 Ericsson Globe, an arena for ice hockey, earned the title of largest hemispherical building in the world with a diameter of 110 meters and height of 85 meters.

Montreal’s Olympic Stadium featured a retractable membrane roof in 1988, although repeated tearing led to its replacement with a non-retractable roof. The SkyDome of Toronto opened in 1989 with a rigid system in four parts: one that is fixed, two that slide horizontally, and one that rotates along the edge of the 213 meter wide span. In Japan, the 1993 Fukuoka Dome featured a 222-meter dome in three parts, two of which rotated under the third. Ōita Stadium was built in 2001 as a mostly fixed semi-spherical roof 274 meters wide with two large membrane-covered panels that can slide down from the center to opposite sides.

Twenty-first century
The variety of modern domes over sports stadiums, exhibition halls, and auditoriums have been enabled by developments in materials such as steel, reinforced concrete and plastics. Their uses over department stores and “futuristic video-hologram entertainment centres” exploit a variety of non-traditional materials.

Source From Wikipedia